At the end of February I started up an experimental batch of stout where I’d be trying to get some salted chocolate flavours. Overall I’d say I missed that goal, but I’m still somewhat happy with the result and I learned quite a bit into how salt will have an effect on the flavour profile of beer.
While using salt in lower quantities is one way to help improve the malt profile of a beer, in the quantities I was using it in that really wasn’t going to be a concern. I was adding 28g of salt to the beer, which was definitely going to give the beer a really salt-forward profile. I went with 28g of salt based on what I’d read from a Gose recipe from BYO. This probably wasn’t the best decision, as I discovered that salt really kills any body your beer might have, though I was able to recover from it.
The base recipe for it was a Chocolate Stout recipe from Brooklyn Brewery that someone had suggested in my home-brew club. The grain bill and hopping are extremely straightforward as I was looking for adjunct additions to hopefully stand out.
80% Cdn 2-Row
10% Chocolate Malt
5% Black Malt
5% Roasted Barley
Columbus 60m Boil for 40 IBU
Escarpment Labs Cali Ale Yeast (2L Starter) [Clean American Ale Yeast]
Single Infusion @ 68°C for 60 minutes
End of Boil
28g Sea Salt in ~25L wort
142g Cocoa Nibs for 14 days (Soaked in 125ml vodka for 2-3 days before adding)
454g Maltodextrin (to boost body)
150g Dextrose (for priming)
The brew day went quite well and I ended up with more wort than I needed. Being frugal I tried to stuff it all into my carboys, but the Escarpment Cali Ale yeast is an active beast and I ended up with some massive overflow. I still ended up with something like 22L of Beer after fermentation had completed.
The only temperature control I had going on was a fan circulating air in the area that I do all my fermentation. Measurements show that my temperature is usually around 21°C so it was a little at the higher end for the yeast.
Cocoa nibs were added about 3 weeks after fermentation was over, then left for another 2 weeks. They should’ve been pulled off earlier but I was having some lack of keg issues and also feeling a bit lazy.
Wort samples were pulled numerous times during the later end of the process and I felt that the beer was tasting really thin. The amount of salt that was used for this batch was on the high side, which I’ll definitely correct in the future. To prevent dumping the entire batch, I decided that we would need to boost the gravity of the beer with unfermentable sugars. I opted to go with Maltodextrin because I didn’t want to also increase the perceived sweetness of the beer.
When the beer is first served cold there is an off-aroma coming from the beer. I have a hard time describing it but would mostly go with phenolic. As it warms up the aroma seems to go away and is mostly roast; so it could be from the cocoa nibs having been in the beer for too long. It has a medium-full body and there’s a slight saltiness on the tongue that quickly goes away once the beer is swallowed. Most of the flavours are roast and slight notes of dark chocolate.
I’d start off by reducing the amount of salt I’d used by at least half and I’d consider adding it post fermentation. The cocoa nibs didn’t contribute as much flavour as I was hoping, so I’d look into an alternative source for dark chocolate flavour. One thing I’d consider is dropping the amount of black malt and roasted barley by half and perhaps replacing it with some pale chocolate malt. I also heard that just using dark Belgian chocolate late in the boil or at the end of boil is a great way to get some strong chocolate flavours as well.
Overall I’m happy with the beer but it could definitely use some tweaks to make it a bit more balanced.